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UK farmers get over £2.7 billion from the EU every year, adding up to 55% of farmers’ income in 2014, rising to 70% in 2015 says Defra (FT May 3, 2017). These payments for the majority of farms make the difference between profit and loss. Of a net profit of say £150 per acre that a mainstream, mixed enterprise farm might earn, £70 would come from EU. And the EU takes 70% of British farming exports. That would also be at risk. 40% of lamb is exported. Of this 90% goes to the EU (FT November 25, 2017).
A further 5.2 billion euros is allocated to UK rural development per annum.
Also of concern is the potential loss of labour from the EU. 75% of employees in horticulture come from the EU (BBC Panorama July 10, 2017).
Farming minister tells Lords environment committee: ‘Prize of leaving EU is to design policy to help farmers become more profitable, support the environment and promote things such as animal welfare.’ (FT May3, 2017). We shall see.
The government has said it will match EU subsidies until the next general election scheduled for 2022. No one knows what happens after that. Given a shrinking economy, continuing austerity and the fact that farming contributes just one per cent to GDP the prospects are bleak.